Male delivery person handing over a small cardboard box to the customer

What does a good service look like?

A good service

According to Lou Downe, a good service should:

  1. Enable a user to complete the outcome they set out to do.
    • A user should be able to complete their task easily.
    • As far as possible, we want to achieve a seamless stream of events for the user.
  2. Be easy to find.
    • The information, tools, and processes the user needs to complete the task should be easy to find.
    • Users should be able to find the service without any prior knowledge of what they need to know or how it works.
  3. Clearly explain its purpose.
    • The purpose of the service should be clear and obvious.
    • Providers of the service should explain:
      • What the service is for.
      • What it will do for the user.
      • How the service works.
  4. Set out the expectations a user has of it.
    • What the user can expect from the service should be clear from the outset. This includes setting out:
      • What does the service need from the user.
      • What can the user expect from the service in return.
      • Expectations: how long will something take? How much will it cost? Who can use the service?
  5. Be agnostic of organisational structures.
    • Users won’t care about how things work within the organisation.
    • The internal workings of the organisation should be hidden and any handovers within the organisation or between organisations should be invisible to service users.
    • Everything should look seamless, even if it is not.
  6. Require the minimum possible steps to complete.
    • A good service should require a user to interact with it as little as possible before the service journey is finished.
  7. Be consistent throughout.
    • Even if there are handovers between teams, other organisational units, or channels, the service should feel seamless to the user.
    • Language, visuals styles, and interactions should all be consistent.
  8. Have no dead ends.
    • All users should be given a clear outcome even if that is to explain why they are not eligible for the service.
    • No user should be left at a dead end with no way back or out.
  9. Be usable by everyone, equally.
    • Everyone who needs to use the service should have equal access to it irrespective of their circumstances or abilities.
  10. Respond to change quickly.
    • ‘Tell us once’. If a user provides updated information in one place, this should feed through to all parts of the service.
  11. Work in a way that is familiar.
    • A service should offer interactions and communications in ways that are familiar to the user.
    • Don’t make things new or unfamiliar, which might be unsettling, just because you think it’s best.
    • Don’t make choices the user probably won’t like and force them to opt out, let them opt in.
      • As an example, although many companies do this, it is poor practice to preselect tick boxes for marketing emails.
  12. Encourage the right behaviours from users and staff.
    • Services should be designed to encourage positive behaviours from both employees and users.
    • Make sure employees are not incentivised to provide a bad service, for example through the way targets are set for performance.
  13. Clearly explain why a decision has been made.
    • When a decision is made within the service journey, it should be clearly communicated and obvious to the user why that decision has been made.
    • Users should be given a way to contest the decision if they need to.
  14. Make it easy to get human assistance.
    • Make human assistance available to the user.
    • A service should provide a way for users to speak to another human if they need to.
  15. Require no prior knowledge to use.
    • A service should not use words which assume prior knowledge of the service from the user.
    • Don’t use jargon.

Additional information

  • Down, L. (2020) Good Services: How to design services that work. BIS Publishers. ISBN: 978-9063695439.